After two seasons away from the top flight, AS Monaco sealed promotion from Ligue 2 with a dramatic late win at Nimes Olympique on Saturday thanks to Ibrahima Toure’s first goal in 2013.
They are five points clear at the top of the second tier with two matches left to play so still not guaranteed champions. A win over lowly Le Mans on Friday would seal the title with a game to spare.
However, Les Monegasques have been making bigger waves off the pitch than on it in recent weeks.
Currently embroiled in a messy debate over new tax laws, the Principality outfit are far from guaranteed their beneficial financial status that they have become so accustomed to when they return to Ligue 1. ESPN reports that Monaco are fighting the decision made by the French Football Federation, and Prince Albert was confident of the two parties coming to an agreement, as reported in this ESPN article.
That was before the wealthy club, owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, were slapped with an outrageous demand for €200 million in compensation by the FFF and the French Football League (LFP), though. According to ESPN, The compensation is for Monaco to be able to continue their business from outside of France.
One major repercussion on the seven-time French champions, if the proposal is upheld, is with regards to transfers.
Claudio Ranieri’s side are already key players in one of this summer’s most anticipated transfer sagas; the question of where Atletico Madrid goal machine Radamel Falcao will be at the start of next season. Currently ASM are leading the way according to reports from ESPN.
With a deal already thought to be agreed in principle with the prolific Colombian, the issue holding up the switch is the uncertain future of the club in terms of the tax agreement. ESPN reports that Italian coach Ranieri appears sceptical over the club’s chances of snaring the highly rated 27-year-old, but it is clear that there is genuine interest there.
So why would Falcao agree to join Monaco of all sides outside of the obvious financial benefits?
It is a strange one. Especially when you consider that this is a club that plays their matches in the picturesque but limited Stade Louis II stadium. It has a capacity of 18,523, yet the club never actually come close to filling it for league or cup encounters.
But Monaco have pedigree, they have won the French championship seven times, four times more than this season’s champions, Paris Saint-Germain, and have a further six domestic cups to their name.
They are also not unfamiliar with star foreign talent. Fernando Morientes, Javier Saviola, Christian Vieri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Yaya Toure and Maicon are just some of the big names that have played for Les Monegasques in the past decade.
So Falcao would not be the first high-profile player to join ASM, far from it in fact, but he would undoubtedly be the biggest coup in the history of the club.
Currently, Argentine starlet Lucas Ocampos is illuminating the Stade Louis II following a €16 million move from River Plate last summer, a move unheard of in French second division history.
But there are a number of other stars in this team too; Toure has 17 goals to his name so far this campaign, captain Valere Germain, who came through the youth academy, has scored 12 and Belgian youngster Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco is a top prospect.
So Falcao would be joining a vibrant young team, aided by some solid older presences, but he might not be the only star to arrive this summer.
Monaco’s ambitions under Rybolovlev are to challenge for the Ligue 1 title given time, though they might be capable of that immediately, and to provide competition for PSG to be France’s most dominant side.
Although they have a number of drawbacks, most notably the low crowds, it has not stopped them signing the best foreign and domestic talent in the past by virtue of their favourable tax rates.
We will know whether that is set to continue at the end of the month. If it is then the Principality outfit will almost certainly spend vast amounts of money this summer and be in a position to perhaps even challenge as early as next season.
Many people claim that France is a walkover league without actually having watched any French games, which is not true. Ligue 1 is a difficult competition to crack, just look at PSG’s struggles this season with a stellar team and expert guidance under Carlo Ancelotti. It is not guaranteed that Monaco would dominate French football with the signing of Falcao.
It would, however, put and end to the claims that since PSG got taken over by Qatar Sports Investments, that Ligue 1 is a one-team league. That is a fallacy; France has now had six different champions in each of the past six seasons, far from being a domestic hegemony for any one side since the fall of Lyon’s dominance of the early 2000’s.
Falcao and Monaco could make that a seventh in seven, demonstrating a highly competitive Ligue 1 indeed.